Wendy MacNaughton and Caroline Paul are the illustrator and author, respectively, of the new book Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology. Hear them talk shop with Debbie now!
Check out the buzz for Sterling Innovation this week, as DeeDee Gordon shares her insights on how to innovate for the future.
How do we innovate for the future? It is a driving question for many businesses, but many of them are looking into too short-term of a future. Â DeeDee Gordon provided a case study with insights into how to innovate not just for tomorrow, but for the decades to come.
In a recent post (that began with our anticipation for the start of Mad Men season 6, which by the way, was as good as we wanted it to be), we talked about the importance of going beyond the â€śclickâ€ť (or â€śLikeâ€ť) to develop brand stories that create authentic engagement with customers.
There is no longer (if there ever was) a linear path between awareness, acquisition, loyalty, and retention.Â With our access to information, all of these decisions and actions are happening in real-time, so we need to keep customers (and potential customers) engaged all the time.
The brands that best go â€śbeyond first clickâ€ť have done more than good social media. They have changed the core of how they approach marketing. They plan and execute a content strategy – thinking like creators, rather than like advertisers. They are creating content that builds a single brand story, across all platforms, in the real and digital worlds, in a way that appears seamless to the consumer.
Those that are braving this new approach have had a lot to overcome.Â In our last postÂ we noted the organizational challenges.Â But building a content strategy is also challenging for how marketers think about their business.Â Â Advertising goes in campaigns, and there are planning and review and revision and execution times. Â Content doesn’t – content is 24/7, a relentless beast that needs to be fed consistently.
To feed the beast, marketers have to live with imperfection and uncertainty more than ever before.Â They need to be making new, relevant and interesting content all the time, every day, related to what their brand stands for, and what their brand is doing. Â When faced with creating content, we all wonder what to say, and how to make sure what weâ€™re creating is good enough. The real challenge with a content strategy isnâ€™t so much that the beast needs to be fed, itâ€™s more about overcoming the fear of our ability to create, uncertainty about what works, and doubt about whether anyone is listening. The cool part about this new world of content strategy is that we have the opportunity to see over time what people find compelling, what breaks through and what might actually motivate customers to act.
There are FIVE THINGS to think about when cooking up food for the beast:
1.) You are making content so people will not only engage with it but share it, and that means it has to have value for them – so make it FOR them rather than ABOUT you.
A great example is the latest from the Dove Real Beauty campaign:
2.) Variety is more important than consistency â€“ you never know what will get peopleâ€™s attention.
3.) Some of the most engaging content is not professionally produced â€“ the bar is high for whatâ€™s compelling, but lower than you think for how itâ€™s made.
4.) Creating something quickly that reflects/comments/plays off of current events can make your brand relevant, even when a connection isnâ€™t obvious.
5.) And most importantly, donâ€™t try to do everything yourself â€“ the best case scenario is to involve your customers in creating content about your brand, and then finding ways (and confidence) to use what they create.
The book on best practices in content strategy is being written right now by brands that are brave enough to open their minds to what and where great content can come from.Â One of the best examples of content strategy as marketing strategy is coming from GoPro. Â Yes, they create cameras â€“ a product that lends itself to storytelling a bit easier to content than foot cream or socks. Â But they recognize how valuable content is, whether they create it or their customers do. Â Instead of shying away from that “non-premium user-generated stuff”, they encouraged it. Â They are engaging their customers to participate in building the story of the brand, which is therefore building their brand authentically based on how customers use their products (rather than a set of proof points and details, like we might see in an ad campaign).
The content beast is here, and here to stay as one of the primary ways to authentically connect with your customers, cut through the noise and go beyond the â€śclickâ€ť.Â Itâ€™s up to you to decide if your brand is willing to feed the beast, even if it requires an approach to marketing that is a little scary, and a little uncomfortable. What can you do in 2013 to build the story of your brand through content that will engage your customer, rather than simply trying to persuade them through advertising?
Deirdre Davi, Sterling Strategy
Our own Debbie Millman is set to give a riveting talk at theÂ Type Directors Club this May!
Debbie’s presentation, On Failure (or how the worst moments of your life can turn out to be the best – and visa-versa) is a funny and heartbreaking tale of making it (or not) in New York. The presentation begins in early 2003 when a good friend sent Debbie Millman an email with a subject line that read: Begin drinking heavily before opening… click here to read more and get your ticket to the event<<
Visit DesignObserver today for the latest episodes of Design Matters with Debbie Millman!
Check out interviews with Sara Blake and Cliff Sloan and also a very special, video version of Design Matters where Debbie gives you a preview of the new exhibit ON! at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati.
Since graduating college in 1991, I’ve had the privilege to live and work in two amazing US cities – New York and San Francisco. Both of these cities are great places to live and to visit, but the experience of life there isn’t even close to being representative of the rest of the country Â - and importantly, of the people you as a marketer want to use your brand.
Letâ€™s start with some facts â€“ which continue to shock and awe many marketers:
-The average household income is $50,054 (SF Gate via US Census Bureau, 2011 data)
-The average Â family savings account balance is $3,800; 25% of families have no savings at all (statisticbrain.com via IRS and Federal Reserve)
-The median age for marriage is 26.6 among women, 28.6 for men (About.com via US Census Bureau, 2012 data)
-The average age for women to have their first baby is 25.1 (Babycenter.com via CDC, 2008 data)
One of my favorite stories of shock and awe happened when I was an Account Executive at an advertising agency in NYC.Â The president of my clientâ€™s division â€“ company not to be named, but the product was canned pasta â€“ decided that their â€śnew & improvedâ€ť canned pasta should sell for 50Â˘ more than the current product, and that we should explore how to talk to consumers about the increase in quality and price. We were in Charlotte, doing research with their target audience â€“ lower-income families.Â A woman whose profile stated that her family of 5 lived on an income of $15,000-$19,999 looked the moderator squarely in the eye and said (Iâ€™m paraphrasing here, as the conversation happened in 1996): â€śyou tell that rich president of your company that while heâ€™s in his big office in the big city, Iâ€™m trying to feed my family.Â And just because your price goes up 50Â˘ doesnâ€™t mean I get another 50Â˘ in my grocery budget. It just means I will have to buy less food.â€ť
I had a similar experience as a moderator, just a few years ago.Â I was doing research with people who use pre-paid debit cards, focusing on single mothers who make less than $25,000 per year.Â We sometimes do a â€ślotteryâ€ť where all respondents who get to the facility 10 minutes before group start time have a chance to win another $50 on top of their incentive.Â As I walked out of the room to get final questions from the backroom, one woman asked â€śdo you know who won the lottery?â€ť and I said Iâ€™d find out. When I came back in, I casually mentioned that oh yeah, Jacquie had won the lottery. Jacquie, a single-mom working at Wal-Mart, began to cryÂ – and the other women in the room hugged and congratulated her for the win.
And recently, working on a project for a TV network, there was absolute silence in the room when listening to the tape of an ethno where a 42 year-old mom from outside Atlanta talked about being ready for her youngest to go off to college. Shock and Awe – because everyone in the room was either waiting to have kids or had kids in diapers or kindergarten.
These are the moments that can define you as a brand strategist, marketer or researcher.Â Do you really understand and empathize with your audience â€“ their challenges, joys, stresses? Do you know how they use their money, their time, what they value? Can you have compassion for their difficult realities? It really is so easy to think about the world through a very fortunate (and often hard earned), but less relevant, lens.Â So, what to do to avoid the troublesome â€śshock and aweâ€ť? A few thoughts:
- Be armed with the facts â€“ not big sweeping numbers that belittle reality (e.g. $50,000+), but a real and thoughtful overview of what your consumersâ€™ lives are like
- Talk to your consumers â€“ lots of them – in their real life environments, as often as you can
- Do research outside your comfort zone â€“ instead of LA and NY, consider Sacramento and Baltimore (and keep in mind, Chicago does not represent the entire middle of the country)
- Never ever make a decision based on what you, your family or your friends might like (unless the category/product skews to people of your socio-economic level)
- Ensure that the senior decision makers are engaged with #1-4
At the end of the day, for most brands, the â€śreal peopleâ€ť who live outside of the major business centers can make or break your business.Â Avoid the shock and awe (in your financials) by really getting to know them.
Sara Schor, Sterling Strategy